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BTTF# 17: The James Cagney Ranch in Granada Hills

[Update October 4, 2013]: In addition to the June 17th update noted below, I have received additional pictures and documentation from Rick Miseroy regarding the history of the James Cagney Ranch which can be found in a new post here. I have also found out from Rick that the main home of the ranch still remains which I incorrectly mentioned in this post as being nothing remains which is corrected below and updated with pictures in the new post. That post also contains photos of the main home from 1986 - 1988 provided by Rick in addition to current photos that I provided.

Update June 17, 2013]: I received an email update from Rick Miseroy who spent his teen years on the ranch and was coincidentally interested in photography who captured many photos at the time. He provided some details on the pictures below and exact address location of the ranch which was 17801 Bull Canyon Road which I will share below noted with [update]:.

[Original Post]:
James Cagney Ranch in Granada Hills, date unknown but possibly sometime in the 50's. Image courtesy CSUN Digital Library/SFV Historical Society. [Update]: This photo "was taken in 1956 by Floyd McCarty as a series of publicity photos for Warner Bros. "
Welcome aboard the Delorean! Marty McFly here to take you on a journey to the former James Cagney Ranch in Granada Hills. The Delorean has the required plutonium plus some random garbage in the Mr. Fusion reactor ready for this trip. The time circuits are set to sometime in 1953 and the flux capacitor is......fluxxing. The engine is running (not stalled this time) so we need to hurry. Hang on, as the ride can be a little bumpy as we travel back in time to explore the James Cagney Ranch at Bradford and Jacqueline Place (approximately 12450 Jacqueline Place; note this is not the actual address for the Cagney Ranch but a reference for the current location) [Update]: "the actual address location was 17801 Bull Canyon Road."

James Francis Cagney, Jr (July 17, 1899 – March 30, 1986) was an American actor, first on stage, then in film, where he had his greatest impact. Although he won acclaim and major awards for a wide variety of performances, he is best remembered for playing tough guys. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him eighth among its 50 Greatest American Screen Legends (Wikipedia).

Cagney was a legend in Hollywood and there are too many accomplishements and quotes to mention here that I recommend visiting his Wikipedia page to learn more. One of Cagney's favorite hobbies was horse riding and his ranches which in addition to his Granada Hills ranch also owned ranches in Martha's Vineyard and Verney Farms in New York. 

James Cagney Ranch in Granada Hills, date unknown but possibly sometime in the 40's or 50's. Image courtesy CSUN Digital Library/Granada Hills Chamber of Commerce. [Update]: "this photo was taken in 1942 by Alvin Kleeb of Granada Hills."
There is very little information about the Cagney ranch but I was able to find some useful info from the  book Granada Hills by Jim Hier:
In 1939, construction began on a Thoroughbred stud farm named Rancho Oro Grande, north of the old Sunshine Ranch. The ranch was sold in 1942 to actress Janet Gaynor and her husband, Gilbert Adrian. The ranch, became known as Bull Canyon Meadows according to Gaynor's son, Robin Adrian. 
In 1953, the ranch was again sold, this time to the actor James Cagney, seen here in 1956 at the entrance to the ranch. Cagney used the ranch for raising horses but visited frequently, as did members of the Cagney family. Though the Cagneys enjoyed the ranch, they decided to sell in 1966 because of the encroachment of developers. 
James Cagney Ranch in Granada Hills showing barn sometime in the 40's. Image courtesy CSUN Digital Library/SFV Historical Society. [Update]: "this photo was taken in the 1980's not earlier as seen with the housing development in the background." [SFVblog]: I should have known better considering this is in color. 
A foal barn in the grounds before the ranch was developed into homes, date unknown but probably sometime in the 40's or 50's. Image courtesy [Update]: "this photo was taken in 1972 by Rick Miseroy."
James Cagney with horses on his ranch in 1956. Image courtesy [Update]:  "Cagney with his Morgan horses was taken by Floyd McCarty in 1956 for Warner Bros., same as first picture above. "
The Cagney Ranch appears to have sold to James Roache in 1966, an African American ex-rodeo star who grew up on a Tennessee farm, according to the article, "California Rancher", of the January 1966 issue of Ebony Magazine. Roache was the only African American in Granada hills at that time but was highly respected since he moved in 1964 (this date conflicts with the date that the Cagney's sold so I am not sure which is true). This is amazing considering that the civil rights movement was all the rage in the South and African Americans were still discriminated against. Even obtaining a mortgage was difficult regardless if the buyer could afford it. The article also goes on to mention that the Ranch was named Triple-A. I recommend clicking on the link to the article to view more pictures of the ranch and Roache. 

I am not sure how long Roache owned the ranch but development soon took over sometime in the late 80's and early 90's which is pretty much how it still stands today. And the rest is history with no traces left behind of the original ranch except for the land. ([Update]: The main home of the ranch actually still exists today and photos can be found in an updated post here). However, there was a recent real estate listing claiming to be the largest single parcel left of the James Cagney Ranch at 12001 Highwater Road which sold for $1,050,000 in October 2009.  

As mentioned above, there is very little information about the ranch like address, boundaries, square footage, etc. The exact address remains a mystery to me but the Movieland Directory shows two addresses in the SFV for Cagney. The first address which I believe is the ranch is 17431 Beach Drive in Granada Hills which unfortunately doesnt exist today.  The website claims this address to be a 1970's historical or correspondence records which doesnt match the Granada Hills book claims that the Cagneys sold the house in 1966 but maybe the Movieland Directory is off a decade. The second address is 19056 Plummer Street which is actually the location of  the former Louella Parsons home and farm (not too far from the Northridge Mall) which I discussed before here.  In a confirmation of my historical accuracy, I mentioned that Cagney also lived in that home in that post based on the realtor's listing description.
If we also look at Janet Gaynor's profile in the Movieland Directory, one address from Northridge is listed which is 18600 Devonshire Street which is a 1940s historical or correspondence records. This may also be the location of the Cagney ranch but very difficult to confirm. There is also a North Hollywood address listed but clearly that is not related to this ranch.
Now its time to jump back into the Delorean and go Back To The Future starting in 1952, 1959, 1969, 1972, 1980, 1986, 1994, and today.
Cagney ranch in center of photo with upside down 'U" shaped building in 1952 with no major development in site. Image courtesy
Cagney ranch in center of photo with upside down 'U" shaped building in 1959 with no major development in site. Image courtesy
Cagney ranch in center of photo with upside down 'U" shaped building in 1969 with home construction taking place north of the property. Image courtesy
Cagney ranch in center of photo with upside down 'U" shaped building in 1980 with the ranch still remaining but new development slowly approaching. Image courtesy

The Cagney Ranch in 1986, shortly before it was razed and developed. Image courtesy [Update]: this photo in 1986 was taken by Rick Miseroy."
In a June 11, 1993 LA Times article by Jill Leovy, Granada Hills: Planners Oppose Mall on Ranch Site, the LA Planning commission rejected a proposal by the Richard J. Mazurek Living Trust for a supermarket, day-care center, and two story office complex at 17900 Sesnon Blvd which is at the corner of Cascade Canyon Drive. So this area was close to being heavily developed but surprisingly the city voted against it. Imagine that! So it appears they instead built homes which I guess is better than traffic running up and down Sesnon. 
Former Cagney ranch located in the center of the photo of the first cul-de-sac on the right which has now been completely developed in 1994. Image courtesy Google Earth.
Former Cagney ranch today where the 'A' marker is located. Image courtesy Google Maps.
Current location of former Cagney ranch at the intersection of Jacqueline and Branford Place.
Current location of former Cagney ranch at the intersection of Jacqueline and Branford Place.
Overlooking the former ranch from Highwater Road. Red arrow marks the location of the former Cagney Ranch location.
Overlooking the former ranch from Highwater Road towards the Northwest. 
Overlooking the former ranch from Highwater Road towards the Northeast. 
Cagney's name still lives on in Granada Hills but this is not near the former location. 
The Chatsworth/Northridge/Granada Hills area was also the location of many celebrity "ranch homes" during the 30's through 60's including Lucille Ball, Jackie Oakie, Barbara Stanwyck, Robert Taylor, Josef Von  Sternberg, and Zeppo Marx to name a few. This area was labeled "Valleywood" by Kevin Roderick, author of America's Suburb: San Fernando Valley, because of the many celebrities who built "vacation" ranch houses to get away from the Hollywood/Beverly Hills surroundings. This blog will continue to explore these "Valleywood" ranches so stay tuned. 
Image courtesy CSUN Digital Library

You can read more historical posts of the SFV at the Back To The Future Series.


Granada Hills: Planners Oppose Mall on Ranch Site, , June 11, 1993 LA Times article by Jill Leovy

California Rancher, January 1966 issue of Ebony Magazine

America's Suburb page for James Cagney

Granada Hills by Jim Hier

Wikipedia - James Cagney

James Cagney at CSUN Digital Library

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Marty Mcfly

Anything and everything about the San Fernando Valley. This blog will take you back in time when the valley was covered with dirt and orange groves to a leader in the space race to its current status as America's suburb. Come along and join me on this adventure, I guarantee you have been influenced/impacted by the San Fernando Valley in one form or another even if you have never visited or heard of the SFV.

2 comments to ''BTTF# 17: The James Cagney Ranch in Granada Hills"

  1. Marty Mcfly, thank you for posting this fantastic piece about the history of Bull Canyon. I'm yet another kid once running around Bull Canyon, with a family that boarded our horse there and took riding lessons. My family, friends, my dog, my saturdays, my sundays, my first job and the ride into the hills I took to have an appaloosa follow me back to become my first horse—we're all at that ranch, with rides in an olds 442 to go 'get colas' and Manfred Man playing on the radio, with tons of fantastic memories. It was so heartwarming to see the ranch again, and know that I leaned against the same poles as James (both Jameses) and used to talk to Raizy, and I remember that little house next to the barn, I used to run around playing in it, until it finally burned down due to an electric fire some time in (77?) Thank you for posting!

  2. Dear Marty - So here is the history of Rancho Oro Primero. My first husband's grandfather, Walter T. Wells, purchased 1000 acres in San Fernando between Rinaldi St. and Balboa Ave. in 1939, and began building his $10,000 residence using architects Dubin and Scott. The lumber from the home was milled on his 460-acrre property in Silver City, near Mineral King, in what is now Sequoia National Park. Walter Wells was a brilliant engineer who made a fortune through gun-perforation of existing spent oil wells (to reactivate them) through his company Lane-Wells of Los Angeles, established in 1932. His Rancho Oro Primero became his breeding farm for thoroughbred horses. There are many articles in the L.A. Times from 1940-1946 about his horses, races. Wells became President of the California Breeders Association. He and his wife, Mary, lived in La Canada, and they had a full-time manager at the Ranch. They sold the ranch, then 700-acres, to Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Adrian (Janet Gaynor) for $175,00 in February of 1946. W. M. Crabtree of the David B. Heyler Co. handled the deal. I have early photos of the Ranch, of Walter and Mary and their horses and buggy. How can I send them to you for your blog? Another great project of his was the Lane Wells building, 5610 S. Soto Street, his main office done in the Streamline Moderne style in 1937. You can look it up, the Lane-Wells Story on Decopix.


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